By Loshaun Dixon
Basseterre, St. Kitts-Last year was a historic year for football in St. Kitts and Nevis with the Senior Men’s National Team and the St. Kitts-Nevis Football Association (SKNFA) looking to build on those successes in 2017,.
Football promoters are hopeful for even greater success despite there not being any major tournaments for the team.
In 2016 the National team received its highest ever ranking of 73 in the FIFA rankings and finished the year at a commendable 80.
General Secretary of the SKNFA Stanley Jacob, told The Observer he is looking forward to continue the success of 2016.
“We intend to go down that development path, where we are engaged in a number of international friendly matches. The SKNFA will soon be rolling out its international calendar where we are hoping to have some confirmations,” he said.
In 2016, the St. Kitts and Nevis team was involved in a number of high profile friendlies against Nicaragua and Estonia. Mr. Jacobs said they hoped to continue on a similar path in 2017 to attract these high profile encounters.
“You can expect that the national team engagement continues with high profile member associations. That is the intentions in order for us to maintain our ranking or even to continue to improve the ranking,” he declared.
He also commented on what role Head Coach Jacques Passy would play in 2017.
“We are still reviewing that arrangement but we are very grateful for Coach Passy and his team out of Mexico for their assistance to the SKNFA for the past year and a half. They have done on a strictly pro brono basis without any request for payment,” he said.
Jacobs added that Passy was originally to be in charge of the team for the entire World Cup Qualifiers and to the end of the Caribbean Cup.
“Our Caribbean Cup campaign ended last November and now we are looking at how the team will move forward,” he said.
He revealed that the National will not be involved in any major tournaments this year and will only be engaged in international friendlies.
“We are out of the 2018 qualification for Russia we are also out of the Caribbean cup competition but 2017 is really the year for women’s competition. We would have coming on stream the World cup qualifiers for the various categories of female football,” he said.
The Sugar Boys fell just short of a CONCACAF Gold Cup berth with a 2-0 defeat to Haiti in November in a game they needed to win in order to qualify for the tournament.
The General Secretary also was asked about the U-20 National team which is expected to participate in a U-20 CONCACAF competition that will also serve as the World Cup Qualifiers.
“The ultimate objective is to qualify for the U-20 World Cup in Korea. St. Kitts and Nevis are among the final 12 in CONCACAF Qualification tournament of which four teams will advance. We believe we have a very good team and we are in a very good position to make history once again,” he stated.
Jacobs said preparation for the tournament is going extremely well and the team is under the guidance of technical Director Lenny Lake.
“He has been in control of the team since its inception and brought them successfully through the Caribbean rounds and now the team is in the CONCACAF round,” he said.
He added that the team has been in training daily and has been training exceptionally well. The General Secretary also said the SKNFA is facing some difficulty in the lead up to the tournament.
“Nothing comes without hurdles,” he said. “We are now going off to Costa Rica for this tournament and it comes at a tremendous expense. While the SKNFA does not really have (the funds), we need to find a way to make things happen. Finances will always be a challenge for us but we believe the sacrifice is well worth it.”
Jacobs also spoke about the benefits this tournament holds for the young footballers.
“Our U-20 boys will be playing the best U-20 boys in the whole of CONCACAF. It is an opportunity for them to be exposed to various coaches and scouts from colleges and professional teams and there is an opportunity for them to have opportunities coming out of this tournament,” he said.
The U-20 team was drawn in a difficult group in the U-20 CONCACAF competition that will take place in Costa Rica in February, 2017.
The Sugar Boys will play their first game versus Haiti on February 18 one day after the competition opens. They will then take on Panama on the 20th before finishing the group stage of the competition versus the USA.
The top two team from each group will proceed to the Semi-Final of the competition and also qualify for the U-20 World Cup in Korea later in the year.